Aimee,  Blog & Buzz,  Health & Fitness,  NEK Moms Contributors

Surviving Blood Draws With Baby

“No more labs Mom!”

I’ve finally recuperated from our trip to Boston and I feel like I have a minute to write (but only one, as Sweet Pea has recently become a lot more mobile so she requires all hands on deck when she’s not napping!) Recently, I’ve written at Mama’s Recess about some of the lessons I learned in the NICU with my daughter, particularly about strength and patience. While we were at Boston Children’s Hospital for three days of follow up appointments last week, Sweet Pea had to get blood drawn for labwork. This is something that happens frequently enough that I am starting to feel like an expert. This particular draw was not fun for anyone, especially Sweet Pea, and it got me thinking that I should share some of the things I’ve learned along the way about how you can help your baby survive labwork.

Oftentimes my daughter’s bloodwork is still done via heel sticks since she is so tiny and her fingers don’t bleed very well. However, some of her tests  require a lot more blood, so they have to find a vein in her arm, foot, or sometimes, her head. (Yeah,  the IV/needle in the head business is definitely freaky the first time you see it. But it’s often the easiest access point!) Here are my tips as a mother – not a medical professional:

  • Keep calm while you wait so that your baby remains calm. The last thing you want is a meltdown from your baby before anything even happens.
  • Make sure that your baby is well-hydrated. This will help plump-up her veins which is especially important if your baby is a tough stick.
  • If your child is a difficult stick or has had issues in the past, tell the lab tech/nurse/doctor or whoever will listen. Demand to have the most effective person (someone with experience working with babies) draw your baby’s blood.
  • If you can, avoid labs altogether. NICU nurses are the BEST at getting in quick and easily. Ask your doctor if it’s possible to get a NICU nurse to do the draw in their office.
  • Ask if you can hold your baby during the procedure. Sing to her. Massage her. Hold her hand. Speak softly to her.
  • Bring a pacifier, favorite lovey, or other comfort item for your baby to have during or after the procedure. I bring a bag full of things to keep my daughter distracted during the draw and comforted afterward.
  • Bring a bottle or plan to nurse as soon as the blood draw is over.
  • If the lab tech is having difficulty, take a time out and give your baby a break. I have a two-stick policy: if they can’t get a vein after two tries then they need to find someone else to do it.
  • With blood draws and other shots like vaccines, ask if they can give your child something for the pain. There are several products available (like Buzzy) that can take the sting out of a shot or blood draw.  Parents magazine published a great article on pain relief in 2009 here.
  • When it’s over, snuggle up with your baby and tell her how proud you are of her.

I have often cried with my baby. Especially when things aren’t going well. I try to keep it together so that I don’t rub off on her and make things worse, but sometimes it’s just too hard to see your child scared or in pain.

Interestingly, Thriving, the blog for Children’s Hospital Boston posted yesterday about preparing for emergencies with children. Although not specifically related to blood draws, I found this quote to be of value, especially since we live in the NEK almost two hours away from any kind of pediatric specialists:

…not all hospitals are the same and some are better prepared to handle pediatric emergencies. Kids are not small adults.  They often need different medications, different equipment (even smaller tubes for blood tests, so you don’t have to take so much blood!) and sometimes a different level of expertise.

Do you have other tips for making blood draws any easier? Or advice on where to go for pediatric care in the Kingdom? Leave a comment below!

Naptime means playtime for NEK mom Aimee Alexander, whose creative outlet is writing about all things mom-related over at Mama’s Recess including children’s health advocacy, education, raising kids in rural America, and the occasional project or recipe. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest!




  • Kelli Shuttleworth

    My mother had two special needs children and swore by using a warm washcloth or heating pad on the area for a few minutes before drawing blood. It brings the vessels up closer to the surface, I guess, so makes it easier to get a good stick and perhaps makes the blood come faster? Not sure why it works, but when my 18ish month old son needed blood drawn from his arm we tried this and he didn’t even flinch. The lab tech was impressed and said she would try it on other children.

    • AImee

      That’s a great idea… when we have to do heel sticks I’ve noticed that it’s easier when Sweet Pea has been wearing socks so that her feet are warm. Same principle I’m sure…

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